NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Thanksgiving Day Games
Green Bay (-3.5) at Detroit, Thursday 12:30 p.m.
Comments: The Packers enter winners of five straight, scoring at least 30 points in each of their past three contests. A perfect 4-0 on the road this season, Green Bay travels to Detroit to face a Lions squad that lost at home last week for the first time this season. Brett Favre has been terrific on the road this year, getting 9.2 YPA with nine touchdown passes in four games. Detroit's secondary has allowed 18 scores through the air, third worst in the league. However, they have also picked off 15 passes, good for second in the NFL, so Favre is going to have to protect the ball Thursday. Detroit has defended the run well (3.7 YPC) and with a banged up Ryan Grant (ankle), the Pack may become too one-dimensional, leading to turnovers… Green Bay's 26 sacks on defense rank third in the league, so Detroit better pass protect Thursday. They can also try running the ball more; Kevin Jones was rendered useless during the second half last week. Jones has lacked explosiveness of late with a recurrence of foot soreness, but he should be good to go this week and can be effectively used as a pass catcher. With the team losing back-to-back games, the Lions will be extra motivated to show a national audience that their early season success was no fluke, and they do have the advantage of playing at home during an extremely short week. Jon Kitna's 7.8 YPA reveals a potent passing attack, although it'd be even better if Calvin Johnson's back injury wasn't such a hindrance. Still, Roy Williams is tough to cover, and Shaun McDonald's 11 red zone targets actually equal Williams' total. The more desperate home team pulls off the upset by winning the turnover battle.
Predictions: Brett Favre throws for 270 yards, a couple of picks and two TDs, with Greg Jennings and Donald Lee the recipients. Ryan Grant fights through his injury and plays, but the results are nothing special. Kevin Jones answers with 80 total yards but doesn't score, while Jon Kitna adds 250 yards and touchdown tosses to Roy Williams and Shaun McDonald, as Detroit wins it. Lions 23-20.
New York Jets (+14) at Dallas, Thursday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Jets ended a six-game losing streak with a huge upset over the Steelers last week, but faces another tough test this week traveling to Dallas. New York relied heavily on Thomas Jones last week, but the Cowboys are stout against the run (3.6 YPC). Kellen Clemens' numbers have been ugly since taking over starting quarterback duties, getting 5.3 YPA while completing just 51 percent of his passes in two games. He's faced difficult secondaries, and he gets another one Thursday, as Dallas has allowed a paltry 6.4 YPA this season. Laveranues Coles (ankle) is likely to be sidelined, giving the team one fewer option on offense. Expect Jerricho Cotchery to be heavily involved, but with Clemene prone to getting sacked, it could be a long day for this offense… At home and used to the yearly tradition of playing on Thanksgiving, Dallas clearly enters with an advantage, although Patrick Crayton (ankle) may not play. The Cowboys have scored at least 24 points in every game this season, and with the Jets allowing 8.2 YPA this year, expect more of the same Thursday. Moreover, New York's 152.2 rushing yards allowed per game ranks dead last in the league, so Marion Barber could be in store for a big outing. He's likely to be protecting a second half lead with his physical style of running that will wear down a defense that struggles to tackle. Remarkably, Terrell Owens' 12 receiving touchdowns - the second most in the league - have come with just eight red zone targets all season long. He's averaging a career-best 17.7 yards per catch despite a career-worst 4.1 yards after the catch; clearly, Owens is doing most of his damage deep down the field this season, and the Jets have no match for his superior athleticism.
Predictions: Kellen Clemens takes numerous sacks, commits a few turnovers and finds Jerricho Cotchery for a score. Thomas Jones is bottled up, while Marion Barber runs for 100 yards and two scores. Tony Romo adds 280 passing yards with touchdowns to Terrell Owens (twice) and Jason Witten, as Dallas rolls. Cowboys 38-17.
Indianapolis (-11.5) at Atlanta, Thursday 8:15 p.m.
Comments: The Falcons' misleading two game winning streak came to an abrupt end last week, as the team fell to the Buccaneers 31-7. Byron Leftwich was downright brutal, using an extremely slow release to get 3.8 YPA with a 0:2 TD:INT ratio. Coach Bobby Petrino is turning back to Joey Harrington, and he'll be greeted by the NFL's best secondary. Although the defense will now be missing Dwight Freeney (foot), the Colts will be focused after back-to-back losses followed by a subpar performance at home against the Chiefs last week. The Falcons are one of the league's worst teams and also banged up, as tackle Todd Weiner is unlikely to play, while Alge Crumpler and Warrick Dunn have been slowed down by injuries all season…Over the last two games, Peyton Manning has gotten a paltry 5.6 YPA with a 2:7 TD:INT ratio. He's thrown for multiple scores in only half of the Colts games this season, thanks in part to an improved defense and ground game. Lately, however, injuries have really started to catch up to Indy, although Anthony Gonzalez's likely return Thursday will be a welcome addition to a depleted receiving corps. Joseph Addai's YPC has plummeted with offensive lineman Tony Ugoh (neck) out of the lineup, but the rookie blindside protector is expected back this week. Addai has been solid nevertheless and might go down as fantasy football's best running back in 2007. Reggie Wayne has seen a drastic increase in targets with Marvin Harrison (knee) out, and he's remained efficient, as his 9.7 yards per target is very impressive. Something is clearly wrong with Adam Vinatieri right now, and Colts fans will have to hope it's just a hiccup and not the start of a Mike Vanderjagt repeat. The Colts get healthier and take out their pent up frustration on the lowly Falcons, resulting in a rout.
Predictions: Joey Harrington throws for 190 yards with a TD to Roddy White, while Warrick Dunn is stuffed for just 60 total yards without reaching the end zone. Peyton Manning bounces back from a couple of subpar performances with a big game, resulting in 275 passing yards and scoring strikes to Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. Joseph Addai adds 150 total yards and a TD run, as Indy gets back on track. Colts 27-13.
Buffalo (+7.5) at Jacksonville, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Bills' four-game winning streak came to a screeching halt last week, when the Patriots routed them 56-10. Despite the winning streak, Buffalo's offense hasn't been great of late, scoring 13 points or fewer in three of the last four games. Moreover, Marshawn Lynch (ankle) is unlikely to play this week yet again. J.P. Losman gets another start at quarterback, but he's yet to throw for multiple touchdowns in any game this season. While the defense has shown signs of improvement, their front seven has allowed 270 rushing yards over the past two contests. However, Buffalo does have a terrific special teams unit, led by one of the NFL's best punt returners, Roscoe Parrish…At 7-3, the Jaguars are a physical, good football team. While Jacksonville remains a run-first squad, David Garrard has gotten an impressive 7.7 YPA with an 8:0 TD:INT ratio this year. Reggie Williams has gotten a remarkable 10.4 yards per target, while Maurice Jones-Drew is probably the best 5-7 football player in the history of the league. Jacksonville typically likes to win ugly, but they are very tough at home, so as long as the Jaguars don't look ahead to next week's matchup in Indianapolis, they should have no problem rolling over the Bills.
Predictions: J.P. Losman takes numerous sacks, throws a couple of picks and finds Lee Evans for a score. The Bills running game remains grounded, while Maurice Jones-Drew totals 90 yards and runs for two TDs. David Garrard adds 225 passing yards with a scoring strike to Reggie Williams, as the home team comes out on top. Jaguars 24-10.
Houston (+3.5) at Cleveland, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Texans still have their troubles on defense, but this team can be a force offensively when healthy. With Andre Johnson in the lineup, Houston is 3-0 this season. Johnson is one of the most physically gifted receivers in the NFL and presents a matchup nightmare for a porous Cleveland secondary. The Browns' 23 touchdown passes allowed ranks worst in the league. Matt Schaub's 7.9 YPA mark suggests he's going to be an elite quarterback in this league, and with such a favorable matchup this week, even Kevin Walter makes for a sneaky fantasy play. Ron Dayne has filled in adequately for Ahman Green (knee) and should have a solid game against the Browns' soft defense (4.6 YPC allowed)…Cleveland enters winners of four of its last five games, with each of the past three contests decided by three points or fewer. Derek Anderson has failed to throw a touchdown pass in two out of the past three games, but he's faced stiff competition, and his peripherals remain strong. Anderson has only taken 10 sacks this season, and Houston struggles pressuring the quarterback, so expect him to have ample time in the pocket Sunday, leading to big plays downfield to Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. Jamal Lewis is on pace for just 1,079 rushing yards this year but with more than a dozen touchdowns as well. Two high-powered offenses face below average defenses, so expect a shootout.
Predictions: Matt Schaub throws for 280 yards and three TDs, with Andre Johnson (twice) and Kevin Walter the recipients. Ron Dayne adds 80 yards and a score, while Jamal Lewis produces a similar line. Derek Anderson adds 300 yards passing with scoring strikes to Braylon Edwards (twice) and Kellen Winslow, as Cleveland wins the high-scoring affair. Browns 31-28.
Minnesota (+7.5) at New York Giants, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Vikings are just 1-4 on the road this season, so they face a tough task traveling to New York this week. Tarvaris Jackson's numbers are ugly - 51.5 completion percentage, 5.8 YPA, 2:6 TD:INT ratio - and he faces a Giants team that leads the NFL with 34 sacks. As always, Minnesota will likely focus on its ground game, as the team's running backs have averaged 5.9 YPC this season - 1.2 YPC better than any other team in the league. However, Adrian Peterson (knee) is likely to sit out another week, and the Giants' front seven is stout. If the Vikings get behind early and are forced to play catch up, things could get ugly…New York has had great success running the ball this season, but with Brandon Jacobs (hamstring) out and Derrick Ward still dealing with ankle and groin injuries, the team is pretty thin at the position. The Giants better hope Ward can suit up, because Reuben Droughns (3.4 YPC) is not a very good option. With that in mind, New York may choose to go pass-first Sunday, especially since the Vikings' run D (2.9 YPC) is one of the toughest in the league. Their secondary can be beat, however, so look for Eli Manning to attack them downfield, although a hobbled Plaxico Burress (ankle) makes things more difficult. The Vikings could be in store for a long day playing outdoors against an aggressive defense that should be able to force a few turnovers.
Predictions: Tarvaris Jackson faces constant pressure, resulting in three turnovers and no touchdowns. Chester Taylor runs for 70 yards with a TD, while Derrick Ward starts for the Giants with subpar results. Eli Manning answers with 270 passing yards and finds Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer in the end zone. The Giants add a defensive score and come out victorious. Giants 24-10.
New Orleans (-3) at Carolina, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Losers of four straight, it's understandable Carolina is underdogs. However, this Saints team simply can't be viewed as a road favorite at this stage, since they possess the same 4-6 record. New Orleans has run hot and cold this season, losing four straight followed by winning four straight only to lose back-to-back games against beatable competition. This simply is not the same team that nearly went to the Super Bowl last year. The defense is yielding an NFL-worst 8.3 YPA and is the only secondary allowing opposing quarterbacks to post a rating above 100. Their six interceptions rank dead last as well. Combine that with an awful running game (83.5 ypg), and all is left is Drew Brees. While Brees has put up some big performances this year, he's on pace to finish with 22 interceptions. When you add it all together, you're left with a decidedly average team at best…The Panthers haven't won at home in more than a year, losing six consecutive games played in Carolina. Still, Steve Smith (shin) is expected to return to the lineup Sunday, which would be a big boost to the offense. 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde is officially a better option at quarterback than former No. 1 overall pick David Carr. Carr has gotten 4.7 YPA this season and will be lucky to find a career in the league as a backup from here on out. The Panthers are desperate to get into the win column and face a soft Saints team, so expect the home underdog to pull off the mild upset Sunday.
Predictions: Drew Brees throws for 250 yards with TDs to Marques Colston and Reggie Bush, who also adds 110 total yards on the day. DeShaun Foster answers with 70 yards but the end zone eludes him, while Vinny Testaverde passes for 240 yards and finds Steve Smith for two scoring strikes, as the home team prevails. Panthers 20-17.
Oakland (+5.5) at Kansas City, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Oakland enters accompanied by a six-game losing streak, although the offense did come to life last week in Minnesota. Justin Fargas has all of a sudden become one of the true workhorse backs in the league, getting at least 25 touches in three straight games. He has an average matchup against Kansas City's front seven, but the Raiders have run blocked pretty well this year. Daunte Culpepper gives the team its best chance of winning now, but coach Lane Kiffin's refusal to get JaMarcus Russell any playing time is a little odd. Culpepper has improved his play of late, getting 8.8 YPA last week. However, he'll have to limit his turnovers for the Raiders to have any chance of winning Sunday…The Chiefs will be fielding one of the most inexperienced offensive skill position players in recent memory Sunday. Quarterback Brodie Croyle will be making just his second career start and will be throwing to a rookie as his No. 1 wide receiver (Dwayne Bowe). In the backfield, rookie Kolby Smith takes over for Priest Holmes, whose career is officially over after suffering another neck injury. Smith has just 10 career carries for 19 rushing yards, but the Chiefs are extremely thin at the RB position with Larry Johnson (foot) also shelved. Smith couldn't have asked for a better opponent during his first start, as the Raiders' run D is truly atrocious. They've allowed a league-worst 5.0 YPC and 16 rushing scores. They've also allowed 15 runs of 20-plus yards - three more than the second worst team. Still, Kansas City's offense is hardly a juggernaut, with a middling offensive line and a young signal caller likely to make mistakes. The Raiders are one of the very worst teams in football, but this Chiefs squad shouldn't be favored by nearly a touchdown to anyone. Arrowhead simply isn't the same hostile environment it used to be.
Predictions: Daunte Culpepper gets 225 yards passing sans a TD, while Justin Fargas runs for 90 yards and a score. Kolby Smith totals 100 yards and a TD of his own, while Brodie Croyle finds Tony Gonzalez for a score, as Kansas City beats Oakland for the sixth straight time while playing at home. Chiefs 17-13.
Seattle (-3) at St. Louis, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: With a solid defense and an effective pass-heavy offense, Seattle is playoff bound. Still, it's a team that struggles on the road, going just 1-3 away from home this year. Their lone victory came in San Francisco, and after double-checking, apparently that still counts. Shaun Alexander's (knee) continued absence isn't a big deal, but Matt Hasselbeck (ribs) and D.J. Hackett (knee) are banged up, the team's two best offensive players. The unit has really improved since Hackett came back from a high ankle sprain, as he was targeted 13 times last week. Despite playing in just three and a half games this season, Hackett has seen nine red zone targets; to put that into perspective, Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens have each received only eight red zone looks all year…A bye week helped a winless Rams team get healthy, leading to their current two-game winning streak. With wins over a mediocre Saints team and a terrible 49ers squad, the streak is hardly impressive, but it's clear St. Louis is currently playing better football than at any other time this season. Still, they've yet to win at home this season, and the offensive line still struggles, allowing six Marc Bulger sacks last week to a San Francisco team that entered with just 14 quarterback take downs all year. While the running back position can often be overrated, this offense is a different animal with a healthy Steven Jackson in the backfield, as his physical style of play wears down defenses and offers a totally different dynamic than when playing without him. Seattle is the better team in a vacuum, but St. Louis wins this week, with home field the difference maker.
Predictions: Matt Hasselbeck throws for 270 yards and TDs to Bobby Engram and D.J. Hackett, while Maurice Morris adds 90 total yards and a score. Marc Bulger answers with 250 passing yards and scoring strikes to Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, while Steven Jackson contributes 120 combined yards and a TD run, as the home underdog comes through. Rams 24-21.
Tennessee (-1) at Cincinnati, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: A two-game losing skid has the Titans reeling, falling to third place in their division. While they get to a face a middling Bengals team Sunday, a short travel week following a Monday night loss usually presents quite a difficult task. Moreover, Tennessee is likely to get a hungry Cincinnati team coming off an extremely disappointing home loss to the Cardinals. The Titans have really struggled defensively without star defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (hamstring) in the lineup, and his status for Sunday remains murky. Vince Young had his best game of the season and maybe of his career last week (7.4 YPA), and he gets a highly favorable matchup against one of the league's worst secondaries in Cincinnati (7.8 YPA). Still, the team's running game has taken a major step backward recently, with LenDale White looking especially out of shape, and Tennessee is just one turnover shy of matching their entire total from last year…With the team relying on him more than ever before, Carson Palmer has been forced into too many turnovers, as he's already thrown more picks this season (14) than in either of the past two campaigns. His 7.4 YPA mark is solid but also his lowest since his rookie year. Most of the problems stem from a terrible defense and poor play by Rudi Johnson, which has led to an exorbitant amount of passing attempts. Palmer's averaging 38.0 passes per contest, which puts him on pace to surpass 600 for the season. Nevertheless, the trio of Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (hip, questionable) and Chris Henry are difficult to defend, and if the Bengals are able to put points on the board at home against an injury-riddled defense, the Titans will have a hard time keeping up in a shootout.
Predictions: Vince Young builds off last week's performance, resulting in 230 passing yards, 70 rushing yards and a scoring strike to Brandon Jones. LenDale White doesn't impress, but he still gets 80 yards rushing and a goal line TD. Rudi Johnson begins losing even more touches to Kenny Watson, who totals 80 yards and a score. Carson Palmer adds 250 yards passing and finds T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry in the end zone, as Cincy prevails. Bengals 24-23.
Washington (+3) at Tampa Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: While the Redskins enter as the team due to win, they've dropped three of their past four road contests and come in with a defense not playing at nearly the level it did earlier in the year. A once strong secondary has suffered one too many injuries, resulting in Washington allowing 33.3 points per game over the last month. While praise seems to always be heaped upon Jason Campbell, the numbers reveal a quarterback who hasn't topped even 6.4 YPA in a game since Week 5. Clinton Portis has improved as the season has gone along, but he and the entire Redskins offense has a very tough matchup this week, with a stout Bucs defense playing especially well at home…Tampa Bay has allowed just seven scores through the air this year with just 3.7 YPC on the ground. It's a unit that leads the conference in yards against (285.1 ypg) and points against (15.1 ppg). On offense, Joey Galloway has been one of the most productive receivers in football, getting 10.8 yards per target this season. Earnest Graham has totaled 245 yards with two TDs over the last couple of games and has become one of the better fantasy options around, especially with Michael Pittman's (ankle) season in doubt. Both teams play a physical style, but the Bucs are tough at home, allowing just 12.2 points per game.
Predictions: Jason Campbell again is asked to throw a lot with a struggling running game, resulting in numerous sacks, a couple of picks and a TD to Chris Cooley. Clinton Portis is bottled up, while Earnest Graham gets 75 total yards and a score. Jeff Garcia adds 225 passing yards and a scoring strike to Joey Galloway, as Tampa Bay wins it. Buccaneers 23-16.
San Francisco (+10.5) at Arizona, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: Both teams have come a long way since the 49ers beat the Cardinals in the waning seconds during a Week 1 Monday night tilt. While Arizona is in the thick of the playoff race coming off back-to-back victories, San Francisco hasn't scored a touchdown since Nov. 4. The team brings an eight-game losing streak with them into Sunday's game and ranks dead last in the NFL in total yards (221.1 ypg) and points scored (11.3 ppg). While it's still unclear how much Alex Smith's (shoulder) injury was affecting his play, he's been mercifully sidelined, leaving 35-year-old Trent Dilfer (5.3 YPA) as the team's starter for what looks like the rest of the season. The Cardinals have played impressive pass defense (6.5 YPA), so expect another long day for the 49er offense Sunday…Arizona hardly looks like a team that should be favored by 10.5 points, but when considering opponent and venue, it makes sense for this week. The Cardinals are 3-1 at home this season, with impressive victories over Seattle and Pittsburgh on their resume. Despite playing with a torn up left elbow, Kurt Warner continues to excel (7.4 YPA), and an impressive Larry Fitzgerald has helped pick up the slack for a slowed Anquan Boldin (hip). Since Week 3, Edgerrin James has gotten 3.1 YPC.
Predictions: Trent Dilfer throws for just 220 yards without any scores, while Frank Gore gets 80 total yards and a TD run. Kurt Warner answers with 250 yards passing and two scoring strikes to Larry Fitzgerald, while Edgerrin James adds 70 yards and a TD, as Arizona has little trouble getting into the win column. Cardinals 24-13.
Denver (+1.5) at Chicago, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: Despite losing games by margins of 39 and 37 points this season, the Broncos currently look like the favorites to come out on top of a pathetic AFC West, especially with the way the offense has been playing. Jay Cutler (7.7 YPA) and Brandon Marshall are fast emerging as superstars in this league, and Javon Walker (knee) might return this week as well, comprising one of the best trios in the NFL. The running game is less defined, as Travis Henry (knee) is likely to sit out, and Selvin Young's (knee) status is questionable. Andre Hall was impressive in relief work last week, and whoever gets the start against Chicago should be in all fantasy lineups; the Bears have allowed an NFC-worst 125.7 rushing yards per game. However, the Broncos have their own issues on defense and must travel to a hostile environment during a short week, so Sunday's game won't be easy…At 4-6, you can bet the Bears will be playing with an urgency of knowing their season is on the line. They've lost three straight home games, failing to win at Soldier Field since Week 2. Luckily, the Broncos come to town with both a poor secondary (7.8 YPA, 16 TD passes allowed) and soft front seven (4.7 YPC - second worst in the league). While Cedric Benson is unlikely to be able to take advantage of Denver's leaky run defense, Rex Grossman may have some success attacking the secondary downfield, as the signal caller has gotten 8.0 YPA since reclaiming quarterback duties two weeks ago. Bernard Berrian may not be the most physical receiver around, but he is a threat to hurt you deep, something the Broncos are susceptible to.
Predictions: Jay Cutler throws for 250 yards and two TDs, with Brandon Marshall and Brandon Stokley the recipients. Selvin Young suits up for the Broncos, resulting in 110 rushing yards and a TD run. Cedric Benson remains a non-factor, while Rex Grossman counters with 260 yards passing and TDs to Bernard Berrian and Greg Olsen. Devin Hester also takes one to the house, as Denver falls to 0-3 against the NFC this year. Bears 24-21.
Baltimore (+9.5) at San Diego, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: Coming off one of the most bizarre losses in recent history, the Ravens enter having dropped their last four games and completely out of the playoff picture one year removed from a 14-2 season. The defense is still stout against the run, allowing an NFL-best 2.8 YPC, but the secondary has struggled (7.5 YPA), and the line suffered a huge loss with a season-ending injury to Trevor Pryce (pectoral tear). Willis McGahee has improved the running game, but the passing attack remains anemic, even after the switch to Kyle Boller. Boller has gotten 6.0 YPA with a 4:5 TD:INT ratio this season, making it crystal clear why he was a backup in the first place…No matter how badly Baltimore is struggling, San Diego shouldn't be close to double-digit favorites over any team right now, especially against one with a still solid defense. Philip Rivers has already thrown more interceptions this season (12) than he did all of last year (9), including a 1:5 TD:INT ratio over the last three contests. Chris Chambers has remained inefficient, getting an embarrassingly low 6.7 yards per target this season. The defense hasn't been any better; after leading the NFL with 61 sacks in 2006, the Chargers have recorded just 19 quarterback take downs all year, and Shawne Merriman has gone sackless over the last month. With the team's clear best weapon facing such a tough run defense, LaDainian Tomlinson is going to have to be heavily involved in the passing game, but this contest should be a fairly close battle between two vastly disappointing teams.
Predictions: Kyle Boller is again ineffective, throwing for just 200 yards but a TD to Derrick Mason. Willis McGahee adds 100 combined yards and a score for the sixth straight game, while LaDainian Tomlinson totals 115 yards and a TD. Philip Rivers mixes in a couple of picks with two touchdown tosses to Antonio Gates, as the home team prevails. Chargers 24-20.
Philadelphia (+22) at New England, Sunday 8:15 p.m.
Comments: The Eagles enter coming off back-to-back victories, but this team isn't very good. The defense is toothless, failing to record one sack last week at home against a winless Dolphins team with a quarterback making his first career start. Donovan McNabb (ankle, thumb) hasn't played particularly well this season, but his likely absence this week won't help matters either, as replacement A.J. Feeley is a clear downgrade. One bright spot in Philadelphia has been Brian Westbrook, who has proven to be a true workhorse this season. Despite missing one game due to injury, Westbrook is second in the NFL with 233 touches; his 19.8 carries per game are easily a career-high…Through 11 weeks of the 2007 season, the Patriots look like the best team in NFL history. Before it's all said and done, nearly every offensive record in the books may be rewritten. Only three seasons removed from a Super Bowl that saw these two teams separated by just three points, the 22-point (and counting) spread is the largest ever for an NFL game not involving expansion teams. And rightfully so, since New England's average margin of victory is 25.4 points this season. Randy Moss is the most physically gifted wide receiver in the history of the league; Tom Brady is one of the three best quarterbacks to ever play the position and is currently playing it at the highest level ever witnessed in the sport's history; and Bill Belichick is arguably the best coach to ever walk the sidelines (and rudely greet the opposition afterward). Any sports fan should be excited to watch one of the most special teams ever, as a legendary season is happening before our eyes.
Predictions: A.J. Feeley is overmatched, resulting in 180 passing yards sans a score. Brian Westbrook manages 80 total yards and hits paydirt, while Laurence Maroney finishes with a similar line. Tom Brady passes for 325 yards with four TDs, as both Randy Moss and Wes Welker haul in multiple scores. New England remains flawless. Patriots 41-10.
Miami (+16) at Pittsburgh, Monday 8:30 p.m.
Comments: Miami continues trying to avoid becoming just the second winless franchise in the history of the sport, while Pittsburgh looks to rebound after a disappointing loss to the Jets last week. The Dolphins have remained competitive for the most part, losing five games this season by just a field goal. Still, with rookie John Beck making his second start of his career against the league's No. 1 ranked defense, the team may be caught looking ahead to next week's tilt against the Jets as a possible better chance at victory. The Steelers' secondary has allowed an NFL-best 5.5 YPA this year but will be missing Tory Polamalu (knee). Last week Pittsburgh allowed their first 100-yard rusher in 35 games, so expect Miami to rely heavily on Jesse Chatman and maybe even Ricky Williams, who practiced with the team this week for the first time in two years…The Steelers are going to be focused coming off the loss and have played particularly well at home this year, winning by an average of 19.8 points in five games at Heinz Field. Ben Roethlisberger has been fantastic this season (8.3 YPA), but he's on pace to be sacked 48 times, just three shy of the franchise record. He'll also be missing Santonio Holmes (ankle), although the team may focus on its ground game anyway. The Dolphins' 13 rushing scores allowed are the second-most in the league, so expect Willie Parker to be the focal point of the offense Monday. Despite 233 rushes, Parker has reached the end zone just twice this season and has seen his YPC fall from 4.4 last year to 4.0 this season. Parker hasn't played well of late, but maybe the new layer of sod recently put in Heinz Field will help. The weak competition can't hurt either.
Predictions: John Beck is completely shut down, while Jesse Chatman and Ricky Williams combine for 120 yards. Ben Roethlisberger throws for 270 yards and TDs to Hines Ward and Heath Miller, while Willie Parker breaks out with 125 rushing yards and two scores, as Pittsburgh wins in a rout. Steelers 31-6.
Article first appeared 11/21/07